July 19, 2019
The World is Your Science Classroom
Ideas for parents to help their kids.
For years, I have been baffled by the number of students who come to school and within the first few days declare proudly how much they don’t like science or how they are just not good at it. Maybe if the youngsters didn’t look at “science” as being this daunting class they have to take in school, and instead realized just how very much it is intermingled with everything about their everyday lives… maybe they’d be more interested. There are countless ways that you can teach your kids science outside of the school. By doing so, you’ll inevitably reinforce things that they’ve learned in their classes and likely make their school experience with science more meaningful. So here are a few ways that you can teach your kids science, whether at work or play!
In the Kitchen:
Cooking and baking are excellent ways to teach science… and reinforce mathematics. Teaching your child to be handy in the kitchen will involve a lot of measurements. They will learn how to convert recipes to suit a larger or smaller number of servings and also how to make substitutions for certain ingredients when necessary. Preparing food is very hands on and done time and time again, your child will “experience” science through trial and error. Don’t be afraid to let them make some mistakes – that’s a part of the learning process. They will see just how even tiny differences can produce huge changes. They can experience different reactions and make some scientific observations that will help them to improve on the next trial and hopefully, you all can get a yummy meal or dessert out of it!
All of my students - freshmen through seniors in high school - get a real kick out of watching a life produced from a small seed. It’s one thing for them to see the grass, trees, bushes, flowers and vegetation all growing outside. At the grocery store, they may notice the produce but when they actually watch the process, there is a whole new interest that awakens. Make it a project! Get some seeds and do your research with your student on how to go about growing the plant or try your hand at using existing vegetation to grow roots and replant. This is a great way for them to learn about the process of photosynthesis and how important the sun is for… everything.
If you have a pet in your home, your child is definitely learning about animal behavior. But the learning doesn’t have to stop with your house pet. Go for a neighborhood walk or to a local forest preserve and observe the creatures that call it home. Let your child share out their observations about what they see – from the tiny bugs on the ground to the birds flying up in the air. The world is your classroom. Butterflies are also an exciting pet to care for. You can order butterfly larvae kits online. Your child will be able to observe a butterfly up close and personal as it goes through its stages, from caterpillar, to chrysalis, to butterfly and then you can celebrate by releasing it into the world!
The amusement parks are jam packed with science! If your child likes thrill rides, what a great family field trip to go and experience science together and hopefully fit in some healthy conversations about how these rides can be considered safe. How is it that we can go upside down and not just fall out of our seats? How fast does the ride go and what do you think would happen if it slowed down? One fun project I did with my Physics students one year was to have them build roller coasters using pipe insulation tubing from the hardware store ($3). The ride had to have one drop, one turn, one loop and the rider (marble) had to come to a safe stop. Of course they had to incorporate a dynamic discussion about kinematics, force, Newton's laws of motion, friction, momentum, circular motion, rotational motion, work, power, laws of conservation of energy and momentum… but they LOVED IT! This would be a cool home project too.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to teaching your kids science outside of the school. I’m sure you can think of some other ways to enrich their learning and help them to develop a genuine appreciation for it. One of the best things you can do to help with this is to teach your child to be observant and inquisitive – but don’t always just give away the answers. Let them... learn.